I’m sure you’re all familiar with Google in one form or another. After all, the company runs the world’s most commonly used search engine and is behind the Android operating system that powers all of our smartphones. But there’s much more to Google than just searches and phones.
Here are 10 rather rather interesting facts about Google that hopefully even some of you Google experts might have missed.
Google was stored on 4GB hard drives
A long time ago back in the earliest days of Google’s development at Stanford University, the company’s search engine algorithm was stored on 10 separate 4GB hard drives. Google’s link structure approach to scouring the web required quite a bit of space for its day, and using multiple hard drives was the only way to ensure enough space. I’m glad that we have tiny microSD cards these days.
What’s more odd, though, is that Sergey Brin and Larry Page decided to construct their hard drive storage tower out of Lego. This allowed the two to expand the storage capacity easily, rather than having to find and pay for more expensive structures as their project grew. Today Google has indexed more than 100 million gigabytes of data, making its original 40 GB storage capacity look rather humble.
Stanford owns Google’s first search patent
Work on Google’s search algorithm, known as PageRank after Larry Page, took place with the aid of Stanford University while the two were studying there. As such, when Larry Page was granted a patent for the algorithm it was assigned to Stanford.
When the two left to form Google, Stanford received 1.8 million shares of Google stock in exchange for a long-term patent license. PageRank has since earned more than $337 million for Stanford, which was more than enough to see the two inducted into the university’s Inventor Hall of Frame.
PageRank isn’t the only algorithm used by Google these days, but it was the first.
Goats mow the company lawns
Google has a fair bit of land over at Mountain View, which obviously needs to be trimmed and kept free of weeds to keep up appearances. Instead of breaking out the mowers and strimmers, Google pays for some goats to do the job.
The company hires out a heard of 200 goats from California Grazing to trim the lawns. The animals spend a week chewing on the grass and fertilizing the land. Apparently this costs the same as it would to bring in the lawn mowers, and Google says that goats are a lot more environmentally friendly and cuter to watch, too.
“Don’t be evil”
This isn’t one of those hidden or obscure facts about Google, but the company does have a rather strange corporate motto – “Don’t be evil.” The motto was first suggested by Google employee Paul Buchheit back in the early 2000s and appeared in Google’s 2004 IPO prospectus. The motto aims to promote a company culture that avoids conflicts of interests and bias, and encourages its employees to be objective.
After the business was restructured under the Alphabet parent company in 2015, the motto changed slightly to “Do the right thing” in the corporate code of conduct. However, the Google code of conduct still retains the original wording.
Call me Backrub
Google may be used commonly enough by us today to have made it into the dictionary, but the tech giant wasn’t always known by this name. Originally, the search engine running on the Stanford servers was called Backrub, until it consumed too much bandwidth. The name came about because the algorithm finds and ranks pages based on back links.
The modern Google name is a play on the word “googol”, a mathematical term for the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. According to Google, the name reflects Larry and Sergey’s mission to organize such a huge amount of web data, although another story has it that the name Google actually arose from a misspelling of googol while attempting to look for an available name for the new business.
A pet T-Rex named Stan
Mountain View is home to a number of weird and wonderful items, from the beloved Android mascots to adult sized ball-pits and a space ship. But the most interesting piece worthy of our facts about Google is Stan the T-Rex skeleton.
The skeleton was named after a real dinosaur that was dug up not far from Google HQ. Stan originally appeared on Google’s campus back in 2006 and was covered in some of the company’s plastic pink flamingos at one point. Apparently, the company’s founders bought the T-Rex to help remind employees not to see or perhaps be responsible for Google going extinct.
Corkboard garage servers
Going back to the company’s origins again, it wasn’t just Lego that helped hold up some of Google’s early bits of essentially technology. Google’s first servers built back in 1998 were based in a garage in Menlo Park, California.
As the two were starting the company on a budget, Page and Brin built their own servers from low cost parts. Very simple corkboards were used to help insulate each of the racks from one another’s heat, although that didn’t stop components from failing rather frequently. The company ordered thousands of servers that were to be packed into these corkboard racks.
In total, Page and Brin built thirty racks of these servers, each one housing eight 22GB hard drives and four PCs, although more were in operation later. That’s a pretty modest beginning for one of the world’s largest tech companies, which now spends almost $3 billion running its huge data centers.
Expanding at high speed
Although the early days may have been rather basic, Google has grown into one of the largest technology companies, powering well over one billion devices world wide. Google isn’t done either, the company continues to develop its own ideas and acquires promising new companies at an astonishing rate.
According to Alphabet’s list of mergers and acquisitions, the company, on average, purchases a new company roughly once a week. As of June 2016, Google has bought over 190 different companies. Although it has sold some of these at various points too, including Motorola, Google’s most expensive purchase.
Early Google was slooooow
As you’ve seen by now, early days at Google weren’t exactly hi-tech by today’s standards. As such, Google’s search platform was substantially slower back then that it is now.
One of the earliest implementations of Google search algorithm and the available bandwidth meant that it was only able to crawl between and index somewhere between 30 and 50 pages per second, depending on their content. These days, Google can get through millions of pages per second and ranks them based on 200 different factors, which takes less than 1/8th of a second to complete. Talk about speedy.
The deal at Denny’s
Rounding up our interesting facts about Google is a story about one of the company’s most important and influential purchases – YouTube.
Shortly after the $1.65 billion deal was done, YouTube co-founder Steven Chen revealed that executives from Google and Yahoo, YouTube’s old owner, met at a Denny’s in Palo Alto to agree to terms. Discussions about the terms and price were talked about ahead of time, but even these only took one week.
Apparently, Denny’s was chosen as a neutral meeting ground that neither party would usually go, instead of at one of their offices. I’ll let you ponder what that says about Denny’s breakfasts, although apparently Chen ordered the Mozzarella sticks. Then Google CEO Eric Schmidt promised YouTube’s founders that they would have almost unlimited resources if they could provide happy users, and the deal was done.
There you have it, 10 hopefully rather interesting facts about Google that you didn’t know before. If you have any of your own facts about Google to add, feel free to share them in the comments below!